16 Gauge Finish Nailer vs 18 Gauge Brad Nailer [Complete Guide]

Do you desire faster carpentry work by using a gauge nailer? When you are buying a nail gun, one of the challenges is choosing which gauge or size of the nail will work best.

While some people use hammers, other individuals realize how a nail gun becomes an ideal home tool that promotes versatility at work.

Our goal is to help you decide which to pick between a 16 and 18- gauge nailer in meeting your specific needs. These two nail options are very common as used in nail guns with different purposes.

About 16-Gauge Finish Nailer

A 16-gauge nailer ranges from 2 and 2 ½ inches long, and 1/16 inch wide. You would opt for this nailer if you were working on a thick trim.

Most home builders use a 15-gauge nail gun when putting up with a thick board. In contrast, the 16-gauge nailer is a bit thicker and can offer a firmer hold than its smaller version.

What is a 16-Gauge Finish Nailer?

A 16-gauge nail gun is measured two and a half inches in length. It is next to the traditional 15-gauge nail when it comes to size and usage. They do not have a significant difference in putting up with thick woods.

Both can deliver a firmer hold as compared with thinner-sized nails that can go as deep as 2.5 inches. It is easier to spot differences when you compare this nail gun to 18 or 23-gauge nailers.

Why Use This 16-Gauge Finish Nailer?

Since 16-gauge nail guns are primarily thicker, it, therefore, promotes improved stability and firmer hold when nailed into the wood. The materials won’t easily collapse once they are joined together by these nails.

16-gauge nails are likewise intended for finishing work with their extra holding power keeping the pieces together in place.

They are commonly used in constructing permanent structures, such as the installation of baseboards or door frames into drywall.

In addition to that, 16-gauge nails are suitable for joining planks more intact. It can perform well with more complex tasks, compared to the standard nail sizes.

All in all, if you are looking for something that will keep pieces in place, a 16-gauge nailer is what you need. We recommend the 18-gauge nailer for attaching boards temporarily for better results.

When is a 16-Gauge Nailer Not Suitable To Use?

Although 16-gauge nail guns seem perfect for construction works, there are still reasons why homeowners should not use the tool. Nailing thinner boards, for instance, can be crucial with these nails for it may result in splitting the wood.

The truth is that a 16-gauge nailer is only 1/16 inches thick however firing it to a thinner board will cause cracks.

The second reason not to use a 16-gauge nailer is when you have no plan to niall woods and materials permanently.

It applies for holding some parts together in the middle of the project, which must be removed soon after.

Keep in mind that a 16-gauge nailer aims permanently joining once it is fired into the wood. They are impossible to pull out using any home tools, like a hammer

About 18-Gauge Brad Nailer

The 18-gauge nailer is a perfect trim gun and the smaller version of the prior nailer type. It is used for furniture repair and other fine detail wood projects. Its thickness results in a wider trim application that can be driven into woods of more than 1-inch in length.

Read More:  Craftsman vs. Snap-On Tools [Difference You Should Know]

18-gauge nails can hold common baseboards and some other thicker boards in place.

What is an 18-Gauge Brad Nailer?

18-gauge nails are less than 2/64 inches in diameter. With its thinness, the nail is more delicate than the 16-gauge nails and can easily bend using your fingers with only a small force.

It is made suitable for crown molding and trim attachment due to its thinness. Furthermore, it has less holding strength but is then perfect for aesthetic jobs.

An 18-gauge nail won’t also leave a big hole and is barely noticeable when nailed into the wood. Make sure to use these smaller nails on wooden pieces not prone to cracking, or else the project would be ruined.

Why Use This 18-Gauge Brad Nailer?

Its thinner diameter can reduce the cracking or splitting of pieces of materials. Visible marks are also eliminated when firing nails into thin and dry lumber through an 18-gauge nail gun.

The reason behind this is there is no hard contact made during the nailing process that will cause marks into the workpiece.

18-gauge nails are commonly used with brad nailers. It is a tool that provides temporary nailing power to accommodate more delicate projects.

This allows removing the nails after finishing a task by simply pulling out the board with your hands.

These nails will not appear visible from a distance, but you can tell there are nails attached to woods up close. With 18-gauge nails, you won’t be messing around your project with any gaping holes.

When is an 18-Gauge Nailer Not Suitable To Use?

The 18-gauge nails are the total opposite of 16-gauge when it comes to offering strong support in holding materials in place. Due to its thinner size, there is only a limited application for an 18-gauge nailer.

Determining the size of your workpiece is essential to know whether these nails can hold it in place.

Crown molding, for example, will work well with 18-gauge nails when it is lightweight and super thin. Larger or heavier workpieces might be difficult to attach to drywall through the nail gun.

Another downside of an 18-gauge nail gun is it cannot penetrate thinker materials. Doing so will result in bending the nails rather than securing the wood in place.

For that reason, avoid using 18-gauge nails on materials like MDF boards to prevent twisting the nails.

16 Gauge Finish Nailer vs 18 Gauge Brad Nailer Comparison Chart

While the 16-gauge and 18-gauge nailers provide less challenging tasks in building your home, they too have a lot of differences you should know.

  • The 16-gauge nailer is more versatile than the 18-gauge nailer in terms of usage. It can penetrate thicker boards to keep them in place. On the other hand, an 18-gauge nailer requires trim molding to produce the best possible outcome.
  • Nail sizes are measured in diameter wherein higher gauges specify a thinner nail. Therefore, an 18-gauge gun can accommodate more nails than a 16-gauge gun with only 16 nails per inch.
  • Thicker surfaces can be easily infiltrated by a 16-gauge nail while the 18-gauge nail gun has superior versatility in detailing work. The 16-gauge nailer also has better penetrating power over thicker plank than the latter.
Difference 16-Gauge Finish Nailer 18-Gauge Brad Nailer
Price May vary according to the brand May vary according to the brand
Types of Woods Hardwood, softwood, plywood, baseboard, MDF Non-MDF woods, softwood
Functions Carpentry works, such as furniture and heavy moldings Excellent for delicate woodworks
Power Source Pneumatic, cordless, gas-powered Pneumatic, cordless, electric
Size/Gauge Longer and thicker A bit thinner
Holding Capacity Can hold hardwoods Better for thin baseboards

16 Gauge Finish Nailer vs 18 Gauge Brad Nailer: The Top 3 Differences

After you get to know the two nail gun options and how they work, we decided to sum up their differences. No one is accurately better than the other as each nail gun is intended for different tasks.

Read More:  Twin Stack Air Compressor Vs. Pancake [Explained]

Here is a rundown of variances between a 16-gauge nailer and an 18-gauge nailer that you should know:

Driving Capacity

A 16-gauge nail gun has better penetrating power than an 18-gauge type. Most nail guns can drive up to 2 inches deep, while 16-gauge types can go for 2.5 inches, a bit deeper than the latter.

The efficiency of the nail gun will depend on the task you will be doing. If you are working with thicker lumber, a 16-gauge nailer could be the best choice.


Both nail gun options are versatile and can meet your particular requirements. But the 18-gauge type is more superior when dealing with detailed tasks.

It supports creativity not to show clear signs of having nails in place. On the other hand, 16-gauge types will go perfectly with thicker surfaces.


Then again, a 16-gauge nail is more reliable in preventing thick woods from collapsing after being nailed.

It has a stronger holding power may be because of its thicker edifice while the 18-gauge type is intended for some other tasks.

It is less stable to hold thicker surfaces than the former nail type but does well with different tasks.

How to Load a Finish Nailer or Brad Nailer Tool

Using a finish or brad nailer can be stress-free with a proper guide for first-timers. The following link shows how to load each tool safely and correctly.

YouTube video

First, you need to identify which nailer could fit your needs. Each nailer type works almost the same but for different purposes. They are useful tools for a woodworking project that comes in a variety of sizes to suit specific needs.

Finish Nailers or 16-Gauge Nail Gun

A finish nailer can help woodworkers to be more productive than using a hammer in nailing finish nails. It is designed for one-hand operation to use the other hand in holding the material in place.

This can hold thin nails ranging from 15 to 18-gauge. It can be pneumatic or cordless depending on your need. The prior finish nailer unit works through an air compressor while the other has a rechargeable battery.  

Cordless units are so much heavier, however, demands lesser initial costs than a pneumatic unit. Up-front expenses may be avoided but there will be an additional cost once the air canister runs out.

You need to buy one in a home center or online shop to be able to use the cordless finish nailer.

Finish nailer has two nailing directions, such as straight and angled nailing direction. The style of the nailer will determine how the unit holds the nails, either perpendicular or at a 20-degrees angle.

This nailer type can contain up to 100 strips of nails that are not more than two and a half inches in length.

It is likewise not dangerous to use, featuring a safe nose to protect users from possible injuries. Some units add rubber or anti-marring tips to prevent the nailer from slipping through the workpiece.

To begin with, position the tip of the finish nailer on the board where the nail must be driven. Make adjustments to accurately drive the nail in place.

The most common technique is to line up the nailer’s cylinder and its tip facing the board perpendicularly.  This will drive the nail squarely into the wood for a better appearance.

Read More:  What Size Nails Do you Need for Framing? [Including Chart]

The proper angle of the nailer has an impact on the overall nailing process. Once you get the right alignment, gently push the nailer onto the wood, press the safety nose, and then pull the trigger.

Additionally, the finish nail must be sunk at an appropriate depth through the nailer. In case the nail is not fully sunk, check the pressure from the air compressor and adjust the dial instead of using a nail set.

While doing the project, wear your complete gear to protect yourself from possible harm. That includes safety glasses, appropriate clothes, and even hearing protection.

Brad Nailer or 18-Gauge Nail Gun

A brad nailer is simply the smaller version of a finish nailer. It is a little thinner than finish nails, unlike the prior type of nailer, brads may be in trouble to drive through hardwoods and more dense boards. It best works for smaller moldings and delicate trimming for a woodworking project.

Similar to finish nailers, brad nailer has two types, the pneumatic, and cordless brad nailer. Powering up a pneumatic brad nailer will require a hose for the air compressor while a combination with a rechargeable battery for cordless types.

Brad nailers offer more variety of straight than angled style nailers that hold nails perpendicular to their cylinder.

The advantage of angled brad nailers is they can fit into tight spaces better than straight brad nailers. Either way is a good choice according to your specific needs.

This kind of nailer is designed with a thin head that requires less hole filling when sunk into the board. Some cases do not use wood filler at all.

These nails are up to 1 ½-inch in length with a narrow diameter which is perfect for very small trimming work. It is not advised for structural works.

Brads are safer compared to finish nails because of their smaller size. But, be careful as it can still cause injuries while working with the tool.

They are often used to fix a small and thin wood not to split the material unlike when using a finish nailer. Make sure to position the nailer far into the board to avoid splitting the material. Also, check on the wood’s splitting properties as they differ from one to another.

Some brads won’t sink into the board, however, pounding those using a hammer may cause the nails to bend. It would be better to remove the nails by pulling them out so as not to destroy the workpiece to a greater extent.

They are lightweight so nothing to worry about but be extra careful. Similar to using a finish nailer, wear safety equipment for better protection against possible injuries.

What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of 16-Gauge Vs. 18-Gauge Nailer?

Nailer Type Advantages Disadvantages
16-Gauge Nailer
  • Can drive nails into thicker woods
  • Has fixed holding power
  • Highly versatile
  • Suitable for a wide range of surfaces
  • Reduces time for reloading
  • Easy to reach tight spaces
  • Not suitable for thin surfaces
  • It can create big holes thus require wood filler
18-Gauge Nailer
  • Works great for more delicate wood trims
  • Eliminates the need for a wood filler
  • Easy to remove after keeping the items in place
  • Delivers weak holding power
  • Not recommended for framing works

16 Gauge Finish Nailer vs 18 Gauge Brad Nailer (FAQs)

Here is a list of FAQs you can learn about in choosing between a 16-gauge and 18-gauge nailer:

Can you use 18 gauge nails in a 16 gauge nailer?

From the above discussion, we learned that 18-gauge nails are thinner than 16-gauge nails and are specified for small woodworking projects. The second gauge nailer has more holding power suitable for larger trim works.

To answer the question, you cannot shoot 18-gauge nails with a 16-gauge nailer, according to professionals. These two will never match at all.

Read More:  Makita 18V vs. Milwaukee 18V Cordless Drill Driver [Must-Read]

Nailers are created for shooting a particular fastener and switching them will ruin the tool. It may result in frequent jams, firing two nails at once, and may also refuse to shoot nails.

A nail gun can only support nail sizes indicated by the tool, in particular length and width. Swapping nail sizes will damage the nailer and may lead to accidents.

Which is a heavier 16 or 18-gauge nailer?

It is said earlier that the higher gauge number refers to a thinner nail. An 18-gauge nailer is, therefore, thinner and lighter than a 16-gauge nailer.

As a result, brad nailers do not create holes that would require wood fillers and only use for thinner thin pieces of wood.

 A 16-gauge nailer, on the other hand, is suitable for heavier and hard materials. It is thicker and can create noticeable holes that require fillings on wood. This does not work for delicate materials since it can cause cracking of the wood.

Which is bigger, 16 gauge or 18 gauge?

When it comes to the size of the gauge nailer, a 16-gauge nail gun is bigger in terms of length. It is 2 ½ inches long compared to an 18-gauge nailer of less than 2-inch in length. That is why the prior option has better holding power in keeping the board in place.

What is thicker 16 gauge or 18?

The diameter of these nails only differs in small amounts. Your reference in determining a nail’s diameter is the gauge number. When the gauge number of the nails is high, you can expect a smaller diameter.

In the case between a 16 and 18-gauge nail, the latter must be thinner in size and perfect for a more delicate woodwork project.

What gauge nails for crown molding?

Crown molding is the process of shaping the intersection on walls and ceilings. More than that, it also fills the gap in between door and window corners to beautify your room. It demands wooden frames that should be cut intricately and then installed using a nailer.

Selecting a nail gun for crown molding considers various options of an available nailer in the market. To mention three possible gauge nails for this job include finish nails, brad nails, and pin nails.

They range from 15 to 23-gauge nail sizes wherein the last option is not highly recommended for crown molding.

An excellent choice could be finish nails for crown molding. They can provide the strongest support. Crown molding is likewise using a thick wood that a finish nailer becomes a perfect tool to shoot nails without any hassle.

Be mindful in choosing which finish nailer is suitable for the task. Consider the right size of the crown molding to be installed, and if it is on the thicker side, 16-gauge nails can do the job.

The angle of the nail gun is the next big thing you need to consider. An angled unit is more suitable for tight spaces than straight nailers.

Can you use 18 gauge nails for baseboards?

Baseboards were made to protect your wall from possible damages and end up with a neater appearance.  These are easier to replace than an interior wall and demand less repair expenses.

Installing a baseboard into your wall normally uses 16-gauge nails. They are long enough to easily attach the board while looking neat and leaves no noticeable marks. This size of nail works perfectly fine with baseboards that are thicker than a half-inch.

On the other hand, 18-gauge nails can be used for thinner baseboards. The reason is that these nails do not have a holding power just like 16-gauge nails.  18-gauge nails could be best for thinner trims that do not require a firmer hold.

Read More:  Is Makita a Good Brand [Why So Expensive]

What Are Some Other Gauge Nailers?

A nail gun comes in different types other than finish nailer and brad nailer. It aims to cater to every woodworking project, as they go better with a nail gun than a typical hammer. These are the other types of gauge nailer that could meet your project’s needs:

Framing Nail Gun

This can hold 3 ½ inches of gauge nails suitable for framing projects. It is a great alternative for hammers in driving a nail into the woods.

It works faster and is a lot harder to finish a small project. A framing gun is also used for wood siding, decks, fencing, and other framing tasks.

Roofing Nail Gun

This one is designed for a specific function for the roofs. It can shoot short nails about 1-inch long to attach something on the rooftop.

The tool is very handy. Users can choose between its three various types – spring roofing nailer, solenoid roofing nailer, and pneumatic roofing nailer.

Pin Nail Gun

This nail gun is compatible with 23-gauge nails that look like a pin. It is intended for more delicate woodworking jobs like crown molding. Smaller nails are used to prevent splitting the wood compared to more robust nail guns.

Flooring Nail Gun

A flooring nail gun is made for putting flat surfaces together. It has two types, manual and pneumatic, but the latter provides convenience for the user.  

Palm Nail Gun

Palm nailer is the miniature form of all nail guns. It can even fit into your palm for general uses. The tool is perfect for reaching tight spaces and requires minimal effort to move around. It is available in three models, cordless, pneumatic, and electric. This nail gun can drive up to 3.5-inches long nails.

Siding Nail Gun

If you are joining thin woods into a wooden mount, then a siding nailer is right for you. It can hold shorter and wide-headed nails to install sidings.

Staple Gun

Driving staples into textiles is possible with the use of a staple gun. It is handheld equipment and very useful in shooting staples and not nails for upholstery works.

Final Thoughts

To sum it all up, carpentry works will never be complete without a nail gun. Among the nail gun types are the 16-gauge and 18-gauge nailers that differ when it comes to the materials they can fasten by.

It is clear to say that the higher gauge number represents the thinner nail it can shoot to the surface. Thus, an 18-gauge nail gun perfectly fits for more delicate woodworks than heavy moldings with a 16-gauge nailer.

Each nail gun option is best for specified works. Consumers must identify the purpose of buying a particular nailer, whichever will meet their needs.

If you are still in trouble about which item is the right choice for you, the above details might help.

Leave a Comment